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Building Cultural Intelligence with Trisha Carter

Entries in Cross Cultural communication (2)


Cross Cultural Communication - what about it?

After a recent workshop on Misunderstandings, Misperceptions, Missed Opportunities - the Challenges of Cross-Cultural Communication – I felt like I had just scratched the surface with a multi-lingual, multi-national, multicultural group. I would have loved to have the time to unpick the topic further with them all - so decided to explore it further via this blog.  

Yes, culture can interfere with communication in many ways. The misunderstandings, misperceptions and missed opportunities are real.

On reflection, I told myself that they already knew that – if not explicitly in relation to all the things we discussed, but they knew that intuitively. They had felt that in the different places they had lived, worked and built relationships; the boardrooms, schoolrooms, staff rooms, lunch rooms, living rooms, shops and cafes you’ve frequented. 

What do we do about it? 

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Cross cultural communication - things that make you snigger

“BHP is firmly rooted in Australia”, so said BHP Billiton chief executive Andrew Mackenzie in his first speech in Australia.  He is a Scot who became CEO in May 2013.  It was a positive speech about the future of mining and the flow on effects to Australia.  I wondered though, if Andrew Mackenzie realized that many Australians would have had a little snigger at the line above.

As I explain to CIC members in our on-line resource Australia: Communication

“One term that often causes embarrassment for newcomers is ‘root’ or ‘rooting’.  Australians barrack or cheer for their teams instead of rooting for them.  In Australia, rooting is a slang euphemism for sexual intercourse and when used as 'rooted' in a slang context it means something is badly broken often beyond repair

Some years ago I was training a young American couple moving to a mining town in the Northern Territory of Australia.  The husband had already spent some time on-site and had already learnt about this communication difference.  He sheepishly told us the story of attending a local footy game where his company was the team sponsor.  He asked a local woman which team she was rooting for.  Her response?  “Darl, I’d root the whole damn lot of them if I could!”

Yes we all knew what Andrew Mackenzie meant so it wasn’t a miscommunication but we might have sniggered –just a wee bit…